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The Real Battle in Seattle

Posted on September 19th, 2008 in AK Allies, AK Authors!

September 19 marks the limited release of the long-awaited independent docu-drama Battle in Seattle, a film written and directed by Stuart Townsend, starring Woody Harrelson, Charlize Theron, and Ray Liotta, among others, that portrays the epic protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle 1999.

It’s always a strange thing to see an event you know well in filmic form; the adaptation of beloved books to the big screen has always been a problematic encounter between different forms of storytelling, but when the adaptation has a real-life, and not a literary, counterpart, it’s hard to know what to make of it all.

The Real Battle in SeattleFor the past several months, a group of social justice activists, including David Solnit, author of the forthcoming AK Press book The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle and a key organizer of the demonstrations that shut down the city of Seattle and brought the WTO meetings to a halt nearly nine years ago, have been working to ensure that the real story of what went on in the streets in November 1999 isn’t lost in the shuffle, or swept up in bright and myth-making lights of the mainstream movie industry.

Listen to David, along with director Stuart Townsend, discussing the film and the activist response on Democracy Now!:

The Seattle WTO People’s History Collective has put out a call for activists to visit the Seattle People’s History website ( and share your stories from Seattle, your opinions, and commentary on the film, and your thoughts about the legacy of the Seattle WTO protests and where to go from here.

Below is a portion of the call to action issued by David and other members of the Seattle WTO People’s History Collective:


Battle in Seattle, the new fictionalized movie about the mass direct action shutdown of the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999, is opening in theaters across the US. Some global justice and anti-capitalist activists will intervene on the opening day of the movie to urge moviegoers to get the real story and make some history themselves.

For the last two years, since before the Battle in Seattle was filmed, we have struggled with how we and the movements we are part of should relate to the movie. Some of us have also engaged with and struggled with the film’s director Stuart Townsend to improve the film, with a small bit of success.  Out of these discussions we have created the Seattle WTO People’s History Project (, an indymedia-style, participatory people’s history website of our movements’ own accounts, photos, videos and reflections from the Seattle WTO shutdown and resistance.

Can you help us give out “Real Battle in Seattle” postcards to moviegoers on Friday, September 19 in San Francisco, San Rafael, Seattle, Minneapolis and Washington DC?  You can find files for print & distribution on the People’s History site:

Or can you distribute these postcards to members of your community, or to moviegoers at later screenings in Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Columbus (OH), Irvine, Santa Barbara, Philadelphia, Plano (TX), San Diego, San Jose, Denver, Charlotte, Cleveland, Portland (OR), Nashville, Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Madison, Milwaukee and Olympia?

This website project, at, is an effort to popularize the “Battle of Seattle” in our own voices and from our movements. Its potential can be realized only if friends from popular movements step up, participate, post their accounts and reflections and get the world out widely! We aim to create a culture of memory and peoples’ history within today’s movements to take seriously documenting, popularizing and fighting for our histories and our victories.

We are a small collective of global justice, anti-capitalist, community and independent media organizers and activists—most of whom were involved in organizing to shut down the WTO and many of whom live or lived in Seattle. Please lend a hand: circulate this email, and check out and participate in the


Contact the Seattle WTO People’s History Collective at: